Barking at death’s door - Woman starved puggle to spite ex-boyfriend

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A 21-year-old Brooklyn Heights woman was arrested last week for allegedly starving her two-year-old Puggle — ignoring the animal’s yelps for food for three weeks before an ex-boyfriend forced her to take the pup to the vet.

Officials from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) said that Francesca Sullivan, a resident of Cranberry Street, was charged with animal cruelty as well as failure to provide proper sustenance for animals, misdemeanor charges that could land her a year in jail and a hefty fine.

If convicted, her incarceration will be in a much larger cell than little cage Ditto had as the pup wasted away in for nearly a month, an ASPCA member said.

Officials said that Sullivan allegedly stopped feeding the pooch after she broke up with her boyfriend.

Over the next three weeks, she allegedly confined Ditto to a small cage and denied him food.

When her ex finally came by to visit and saw the emaciated dog, Sullivan shrugged and said that the dog must be sick, officials alleged. Ditto had not eaten “for about a week,” she claimed, according to sources.

The ex-boyfriend demanded that Sullivan take the dog to the Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group on Warren Street, where Dr. Brett Levitzke quickly determined that Ditto’s condition wasn’t caused by some physical malady.

“When [Sullivan] came in, she was sticking to her story,” Dr. Levitzke said. “But we could tell that Ditto hadn’t eaten for much longer than just a week.”

When she was brought into the vet, Ditto was found listless and lying on her side. She didn’t even have enough strength to raise her head, Levitzke said, adding that blood tests were negative for any diseases or disorders.

His suspicions about what turned Ditto into a cowering pile of fur and bones was realized when a small bit of food was brought to the dog’s mouth.

Ditto nearly snapped the tongue depressor sticking out of her mouth in half as she lunged to snap up the morsel, Livitzke explained.

The doctor and his team immediately called the ASPCA, which launched an investigation.

“In my opinion, this wasn’t just one time where you hit a dog or a cat in a fit of anger – that’s bad enough,” said Livitzke. “This woman came home from work or school every day, and heard this dog crying, whining and ultimately collapsing, but did nothing about it. That’s sustained abuse.”

Thankfully, whatever drive the plucky little dog had that helped her survive also helped Ditto with her recovery as members of the Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group began nursing the dog back to health.

A few weeks later, just around the time that Sullivan was taken into custody, Ditto had bulked up from a meager six pounds to nearly 14 pounds.

“In a week, Ditto was walking around,” explained Levitzke. “Then she began to show her true colors by wagging her tail, showing everyone that no matter what she went through, she isn’t holding a grudge against anybody.”

Pretty soon, Ditto became the darling of the Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group – so much so that one of the receptionists adopted her.

“She’s still young, so she likes to prance and play around,” said Levitzke. “She’s living the life of a queen.”

Investigators believe that Sullivan allegedly starved Ditto in an attempt to get back at her former boyfriend, who was quite fond of the pooch.

“It’s a sad situation but pets often find themselves in the middle of a human domestic situation,” explained ASPCA spokesman Joe Pentangelo. “Usually they don’t fare very well.”

Of Levitzke, Pentangelo said that the Carroll Gardens doctor “has demonstrated that he’s always a friend to animals and is committed to fighting animal cruelty.”

Kings County prosecutor said that Sullivan was arraigned on $1,000 bail and was awaiting her next court date.

So far this year, 16 Brooklynites have been charged with cruelty to animals. Just over 900 animal cruelty cases have been investigated, Pentangelo said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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